[This post has updates below.]
For TV dramas, unpredictability is king. And Better Call Saul—AMC’s operatic prequel to Breaking Bad—is as coolly capricious as it gets.
Interestingly, I was never a fan of Breaking. I couldn’t ever get into the storylines, the characters, nor the actors. But Saul is everything to me that Breaking Bad wasn’t: a relatable, doomed-to-fail-upward character whose poor choices are framed by character actors who ably support lead actor Bob Odenkirk.
Comparing Better Call Saul to a slow-motion train wreck is not quite right, because an actual train wreck is the end of forward movement—for passengers, and for a time, the train itself. On the show, though, the Jimmy Train resets itself back on its tracks, only to slip back off the rails and in to another ravine. And therein lies the predictable unpredictability: we’re continually rooting for a guy whom we incorrectly hope will make a decent life decision. We all know life is not a series of schemes to be converted; Jimmy does too, it’s just that he doesn’t give a shit.
The storyline with the retirement-community advert that Jimmy concocted without direct approval from his firm’s muckety-mucks is a great example of chance-taking gone awry. Good instincts mean nothing with poor execution, and both Jimmy and gal pal Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) were adversely affected. Kim ended up in doc review, and Jimmy was ultimately branded a pariah by executives who’d gone out of their way to lavish Jimmy with perks after turning the old folks home business in to gold.
If good casting is the lifeblood of a successful scripted TV show, Saul is better named as Better Call Emmy. Casting Michael McKean as Jimmy’s brother Chuck turned out to be a masterstroke of a comedic actor moving a character in to fearful complexity in the mold of Steve Carrell. Now that this show is out of the shadow of Mad Men, it may only have to compete with Homeland and HBO’s Game of Thrones for Emmy’s top prize.
The showrunner’s commitment to sweeping photographic frames and long shots are a stunning nod to cinematic storytelling. In the vein of The Sopranos, we’re getting a mini-feature-film each time we tune in. And that, my friends, is a treat in this day and age.
As a reviewer who was never on board for Breaking Bad, I’m fully invested in this series. Which is a plot twist worthy of any of Jimmy’s worst days. Grade: A
In America lately, every day is ADOS Day. (“Attention Deficit Oooh Shiny!”)
We turn on the news and we are force fed Trump taking various calamitous positions, screeching about how high his polling is, how large his cock is or how terrific, luxurious and long his fingers are.
TrumpTV™ and Election 2016 have distracted from some further dire warnings of how accelerated climate change has become. The signs are undeniable, and getting more repeated and serious. With fully one-third of the country’s lawmakers denying that Climate Change is real—and decisions like the one from our Supreme Court gutting President Obama’s Clean Power Plan initiative through the EPA—the United States cannot lead on this issue until we’re all singing from the same playbook.
RELATED: CLIMATE SCIENTISTS: ‘WE HAVE A GLOBAL EMERGENCY‘
There’s a piece up on National Observer by Charles Mandel entitled “While you were distracted, this climate change warning arrived.” The post tracks a long-awaited study by climate scientist James Hansen that measures catastrophe in decades, not in centuries.
He said that ice melt from Greenland ‘raises questions about how soon we’ll pass the point of no return in which we lock in consequences that cannot be reversed.’
Those consequences would include sea level rise of several metres, potentially in this century, if fossil fuel use continues at a high level.
‘That would mean the loss of all the world’s coastal cities,’ Hansen warned.
This is not the far-off calamity of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth. (Related: see “Cure Your Crankies” below.) These findings indicate that we will be leaving a global climate to our children that is past the point of no return. Mr. Hansen and his collaborators assert that we’re facing “‘a real danger’ that we will hand young people and future generations a climate system that is practically out of their control.” That, my Cranker Darlings, is a doomsday warning if we’ve ever heard one.
This is yet another Green Scream that we should be acting on. Now. Our journalists should not present “both sides” of this argument, because there’s only one persuasive belief: climate change could destroy our ways of life. We’re in real trouble if we don’t make significant and lasting changes to our behavior.
One last note: public opinion can sometimes bend the curve toward change. Intransigent wingnuts should hopefully give way to this data point from Gallup. The smart and informed will prevail—and inherit a better earth.
I can’t watch voter-suppression stories before bedtime because I become enraged. The basic right to vote should be made easier, not harder… full stop.
If you look at what’s going on in Maricopa Co., Arizona, however, lawmakers there have thrown a political grenade on a voting system that is now crippled and non-functional. A voting district that had more than 200 polling places in 2012 saw its number reduced to 60—causing all sorts of hideous bottlenecks. As a result, primary voters stood on outrageous lines for hours on end. This is deeply offensive to tax-paying citizens who expect basic government functionality.
I’m following multiple reports on the topic, but there’s none better than Bob Cesca’s write-up at Salon. “What happened in Arizona wasn’t an accident” is a pitch-perfect distillation of how both sides complain using the same language—but arguing two very different things. Voter disenfranchisement is not tantamount to voter fraud, despite there being a petition up at WhiteHouse.gov alleging that very thing.
Why the hell would Democrats include ‘voter fraud’ in the petition, especially knowing there weren’t any known cases of voter fraud (voters using fake names or voting more than once, etc.) in Arizona this week? Indeed, throughout the Democratic primaries, voters and activists have been screaming about voter fraud, perhaps not realizing that disenfranchisement isn’t the same as voter fraud.
Voter fraud is the fictitious, statistically nonexistent “crime” that GOP states have alleged and centered policy around. And gosh-golly, it sounds so pragmatic: making people prove with photo ID that they are who they say they are. However, states have made it next to impossible for certain minority voters and the elderly to obtain these IDs; when you combine that scourge with the decision by Maricopa election manager Helen Purcell to close 60% of its polling places, you see democracy falling flat on its face and raising the ire of voters.
Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton has called for a federal investigation of the handling of voting in his district.
Bob Cesca is 100% right: nationalizing elections and creating a consistent standard throughout the country is absolutely the way to go. Also, argue for voter suppression, NOT voter fraud—otherwise you’re supporting the counterfeit idea that people cheat on elections.
Do all that… Or kiss our democracy good-bye.
“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” is one of my new faves. This ditty on Jeb! Bush is just… delicious:
Madonna is officially the world’ most prolific touring artist; no word on which 20-year-old Madge is dating now… Belgium authorities let a mass murderer return from the Paris attacks and live in the shadows for four months, culminating in coordinated bombings days after he was captured… Rudy Douche-ianni blames Obama for the attacks in Belgium; the budding drag queen once again proves he’s not fit for any office… Ridiculous laws make you a criminal if you capture rainwater in Colorado, but change is afoot. Colorado is the only state in the nation that outlaws the practice. Who woulda thought Colorado would legalize weed before rainwater capture?
This was and is my personal anthem from 2006: “I Need to Wake Up” by Melissa Etheridge. Sure, it was the Oscar-winning theme song to “An Inconvenient Truth,” but it’s also a soaring ode to choosing to be happy, productive, vibrant, empathetic, open and aware. I lead every day with understanding because of this song.
That’s it from me Cranker Darlings. We’ll see you right back here next Thursday at 2.
Will Pollock is a crabby New York City escapee living in Atlanta. He’s a freelance multimedia journalist and author of two books (Pizza for Good & Leaving Triscuit), with more on the way. Sign up for the mailing list, follow on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram—and check out the book links below.
Don’t forget to comment below. Cranky loves company.